Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Sooty Show & Incredible Edibles

A packed Thursday saw me up at 3.45am to help out with a bat survey and I used the opportunity to do some birding as well. A juvenile red kite and a few green sandpipers provided the highlight at Ouse & Berry Fen and later I had a first in the form of some sexton beetles beneath felt at Mildenhall - larger than I'd imagined and covered in some parasitic mite, perhaps from the body of an unseen victim.

Stone curlew numbers were down on last week's visit (probably as a result of the differing time of day) but a woodlark overhead was only my second record at this site.

It was on to Cambridge for a three course meal at a restaurant with some friends but when news broke mid afternoon of a sooty/ balearic shearwater at Grafham I hastily made plans to visit. A couple of hours later I was there, watching what is likely to become the first ever accepted record of an inland sooty shearwater in Britain. The only previous contender was a bird in 1988 at the same site - removed after a review last year which concluded balearic could not be ruled out from the evidence available.

The bird showed well off the dam down to about 50m or so and I heard after I left it drifted right up to the shore. It wasn't seen to fly and was probably unwell. There was no sign of it the following day. Bearing in mind this is a southern hemisphere species perhaps it's not a wonder that it never seems to turn up inland but rather that is shows up in such good numbers on seawatches at all. At this time of year sooties can be seen in their hundreds at the right locations and with the right weather conditions (though my personal best is a rather more modest 19!)

Moving back to mammals and last night saw me take a little sojourn down to Wendover where the edible dormice showed very well. They were there when I arrived at dusk and soon the woods were alive with their little calls, the odd individual posing in the beam of a torch. These mammals (often known by their scientific name Glis glis, or a shortened version, simply Glis) have been around since last century when they were introduced to Tring Park and though they haven't spread far they have certainly built up a respectable population density. Non-native invasives they may be but cute they most certainly are too - unless you live in one of the homes they choose to invade (over 400 have been found in a single loft before).

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